EL ESPECTADOR, May 25, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

In a letter directed to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, a group of Democratic members of Congress, asked that the administration reiterate its commitment to the defense of democracy and the election process in Colombia.

A group of members of the United States Congress sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to express their concerns about the safety of the Presidential candidate for the Historic Pact Party in Colombia, Gustavo Petro, and of his running mate for Vice President, Francia Márquez.

“The Presidential candidates for the Historic Pact Party, including Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez, are ahead in several of the polls. However, on May 2, their campaign suspended its operations in the coffee-growing region of Colombia, reporting that they had learned of a credible scheme to kill the Presidential candidate Petro, and the Vice-Presidential candidate Márquez,” stated the group in the letter, recalling that it’s not the first time we hear about this kind of threat against the Historic Pact Party candidate.

Last May 2, candidate Petro complained that “La Cordillera”, an illegal group dedicated to drug trafficking and contract killing in the area where the departments of Quindío, Risaralda, and Caldas converge, was planning to kill him, and therefore, they suspended their campaign activities in the coffee-growing region.

“According to the investigation, including sources in the area, La Cordillera was planning to kill Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro Urrego. That information was verified by the research and analysis team of the Petro for President campaign, which had access to highly credible sources, stated the campaign in a press release.

The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation to clarify the threats that the Historic Pact Party candidate had complained about. But the concerns for the security of Petro and his running mate have not dissipated. Francia Márquez, who has received a number of death threats so far this year, was pointed at with a laser at a campaign closing event in the Journalists Plaza in Bogotá last weekend. That act awakened more worry about the safety of the progressive team of candidates.

Therefore, the letter directed to Blinken, signed by 14 Democratic members, wants President Joe Biden’s cabinet or the White House itself to make a statement about the elections in Colombia and reiterate their commitment to the defense of the security of the election process, as well as the obligation to respect the results of the voting.

“Even though Colombia’s Minister of the Interior, Daniel Palacios, has announced plans to furnish additional security to Sr. Petro, we continue to be concerned about the credible threats against Presidential candidates,” reads the letter.

Another of the concerns for the members of Congress who signed the letter is the transparency of the election process.

“After the legislative elections on March 13, the election observers and the political parties discovered hundreds of thousand ballots that hadn’t been counted. The Registry Office, responsible for administering elections, at first responded by suggesting a recount. There was no legal basis for that, and they were forced to withdraw that proposal. These irregularities set a problematic precedent that could bring more attempts to hinder the democratic process in Colombia,” emphasized the members of Congress.

Among the signers is Rep. Jim McGovern, who is one of the United States politicians who has been closest to Colombia in recent years. The group stated that, “the Presidential elections this year show notable progress in the advance of racially diverse candidates, with five Afro-Colombian candidates for Vice President on the ballot,” and that’s why they emphasized the importance of “carrying out free and fair elections, where the candidates are free to campaign without being intimidated, and where all of the votes are counted.”

“Given the worrisome history of political violence in Colombia, and the crucial role of the next elections to assure the democratic principles of the country, we respectfully ask that you transmit our concerns to the government of Colombia, that it maintain a posture of impartiality and respect with regard to the decisions of the Colombian voters, and that you call upon Colombian authorities to guarantee free and fair elections without political violence and with solid protections for the safety of the candidates and the voters,” concluded the group in their letter to Blinken.

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